Two years ago I giggled my way through Mischief Theatre’s “The Play That Goes Wrong”. I didn’t think “The Comedy About A Bank Robbery” could elicit the same hysteria. I was wrong. So the bar was set high for their latest touring production “Peter Pan Goes Wrong” at the Alexandra Theatre. And like the two shows before it, it’s hilariously funny.
Starting off in a small 50-seat theatre in London as a Fringe concept, it’s been an incredible few years for Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer et al. Mischief Theatre Company currently have residency at three West End theatres, and have even been gracing the small screen recently with a six-part season of “The Goes Wrong Show”. And it’s easy to see why they’ve grown in popularity.
Even before the official curtain-up, the “stage crew” are making last-minute adjustments. It’s clear that Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are – once again – putting the amateur into amateur dramatics. Which is the sheer talent of this incredibly professional cast, making a slick show look like complete carnage.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong is everything you expect from a Mischief Theatre production. Missed cues. Comedy falls. Fluffed lines. Malfunctioning props. It’s perfectly executed mayhem. And as “Director” Chris Bean reminds us, this is NOT a pantomime.
Cornley’s actors may start with enthusiasm and vigour, but their production soon starts falling apart at the seams. The behind-the-scenes crew find themselves accidentally taking centre-stage. With “Stage Manager” Trevor even stepping in for our leading man for a scene or two.
We’re watching a spectacularly professional cast playing a spectacularly amateur cast playing much-loved Peter Pan characters. Keep up. Trying to navigate the cast list in the programme is like trying to do a cryptic crossword after a few G&Ts.
Technically the show (the real show) is wonderful, with precise timing being crucial, particularly during a succession of ever-quickening revolving sets towards the end of the show. Designed by Simon Scullion, we are taken from the Darling’s bedroom to a tropical lagoon, a magic glade and onto a pirate ship. And also a hilarious “underwater” scene. The special effects are, well, budget to say the least.
This amount of comedy, slapstick and energy is physically demanding yet the cast (the real cast) expertly meet all the challenges.
Katy Daghorn plays Sandra, who plays an over-acting Wendy. George Haynes is “director” Chris Bean. And Mr Darling. And a snarling Captain Hook. Who is not a fan of pantomime-esque audience interaction. In fact, many of the cast play Cornley performers that play multiple roles, with actors such as Oliver Senton playing Robert, who takes on the parts of an incomprehensible pirate, Peter Pan’s shadow, and Nana the Dog, as well as being assistant director. And Annie (played by Phoebe Elliani) has some rapid costume changes between being Mrs Darling, housemaid Lisa, Tiger Lily and a feisty Tinkerbell. Georgia Bradley, playing a stage-fright-struck Lucy, playing Tootles, deserves a special mention too.
But Tom Babbage playing Max, playing Michael Darling and the Crocodile, is a particular audience favourite. Max plays up to the crowd from the start, saves the day and gets the girl.
And the audience love it. There are pockets of the auditorium in contagious hysterics, which just adds to the general happy mood and it’s exactly what Mr Fletche and I need.
If you get the opportunity to see a Mischief Theatre show live, make sure you do. I’ve loved all three shows and very few productions have managed to make Mr Fletche weep with laughter. I’ll never be able to listen to “Boy for Sale” from Oliver! in the same way again.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong runs at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham until Saturday 22nd February 2020 before continuing its tour. Buy your ticket here – you can’t go wrong. But the play probably will…